Choosing the Right Glucometer
Glucometer is an integral part of any Diabetic’s life. This electronic device measures blood glucose levels and provide an alternate to laboratory glucose tests. Doctors base their treatment plans and medications on these very blood glucose levels and patterns.
How Glucometer works?
Before getting into more details, let us first understand as to how all glucometers work. When you put your blood on the strip by pricking the finger, blood glucose interacts with the enzyme on the strip, releasing electrons. Another agent on the strip, called Mediator, turns these electrons into the current. So, different current levels give different glucose readings. This is the reason why most of the glucometers require manual calibration each time you start with a fresh box of strips. This may involve entering a code number into the meter, or inserting a code strip or chip into the meter. This ensures that the meter is reading the test strips - and your blood glucose levels - correctly.
Things to consider for selecting a Glucometer
The above description of Glucometer working helps us realize the importance of strip quality for accurate measurement of blood glucose. However, there are other factors to consider before selection of right glucometer.
We have compiled some of these factors for you:
- Accuracy: Though laboratory glucose test is the most preferred option for measuring blood sugar levels, most glucometer should be accurate enough to give measurements within +/-15 mg/dL (for sugar levels below 75 mg/dL) or +/- 20% (for sugar levels above 75 mg/dL) depending upon your sugar levels. You may find these figures on the websites of the vendor selling the product.
- Additional tools: Some of the latest glucometers might provide you with Insulin dose calculators. Though doctors advice is utmost important for calculation of insulin dose, these calculators might act like a second opinion on insulin dosage. Moreover, most of the glucometers have the ability to store the glucose readings.
- Ease of Use: Since this device is used frequently (almost 4-5 times a day), the ease of use is an important criterion. The glucometer should be easy to maintain and calibrate. Calibration, with new strips, should not be cumbersome. Some of the glucometers come with “No Coding” technology, which do not require any calibration. You may choose “No Coding” glucometers to avoid errors because of incorrect calibration.
- Commercial Reasons: Some of the vendors provide warranty periods. Since, the device is frequently used, one must seek for a warranty period.
- Certifications: You may seek for glucometers approved by US FDA.
Please note that the accuracy requirements might vary as per patient’s condition or type of diabetes. In fact, standalone glucometer results are not very reliable for Type 1 diabetes patients, since they frequently suffer from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar level) episodes. In such cases, lab blood tests are recommended for more accurate predictions.
Factors affecting accuracy of Glucometers
There are many factors that impact the accuracy of the results:
- Mediator oxidation & strip freshness is an important criteria. Exposing strips to air for too long, or using expired strips may cause erroneous results.
- Medication might interfere with the mechanism for measurement of glucose level.
- Temperature, humidity and hematocrit (volume of red blood cell to toral volume of blood) impact the accuracy to a large extent. If any of these are on higher side, it may interfere with the readings. Most manufacturers define the ideal ranges for these 3 parameters on their websites.
- Incorrect coding / calibration will certainly lead to erroneous results. According to some surveys, almost 1 in 6 glucometer users did not know about calibration.
- Strips differ in the well size, impacting the amount of blood the strip holds, and thereby affecting accuracy.
In essence, better handling of glucometer & strips is almost as important as choosing the right glucometer for accurate results. Accurate readings result in better diabetes management, leading to better treatment outcomes.